16. “Ihram” (The Hajj Journal)

Aaron wearing ihramSeptember 13, 2016

Today we also put on our ihrams and are on our way to Mecca. Ihram is a dress specifically for Umra and Hajj. It consists of a single, white sheet wrapped around the waist, and another wrapped around the body. Something one of our group guides said stuck with me: “this is your shroud.” That keeps repeating in my mind. I’m wearing my shroud. A Muslim is buried in white sheets. However, the end result of Hajj is, as the Prophet (p) said, is that we come out as the day we were born: free of sin. A rebirth. A new beginning. The ihram is a double reminder of both death and rebirth. We are all born, all die, and are all resurrected in the next life. The deciding factor is complying with God’s commandment. And as with every reflection about death, it’s not about getting mopey and upset; instead it is about life. How to life your life, according to God’s will.

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I’m Not OK, Alhumdulilah

 

Rain drops against a pane of glass

“Muslims don’t get depressed.”

You may have heard this before. If you did, you probably felt irritated, upset or even more depressed. If you’re hearing this for the first time, you’re probably just as shocked and angry as I was.

If you agreed with that statement, then you are wrong. Muslims do get depressed. That’s because Muslims are people. Humans. Some battle depression on a regular basis.

Today, I’m writing about depression: what it is, why people like me have it and what my faith has to say about it.

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15. “One foot in the grave” (The Hajj Journal)

Baqi graveyard in Medina

September 13, 2015

I started this day with a reminder of death. After Fajr prayer there was a janaza (funeral) prayer. I then made my way to Baq’i, the graveyard near the Prophet’s mosque. It’s so big; you could probably fit West Edmonton Mall in it. The graves are marked by gravel mounds, with a bare rock at the head of the grave. Some graves have 2 stones, one at the head and another at the foot. I went to where the grave was dug. There’s a section of empty plots pre-dug with boards over the top. I joined the group who gathered silently to pray for the deceased. I’d never met them, and didn’t know if the person was a man or woman, adult or child… After saying my prayer, I stepped off the first mound surrounding the grave and onto a board. A man in front of me said to stop. I looked down. The board was sagging where my foot was. I literally had one foot in the grave. I stepped off and the red dust covered my feet. I looked out at the barren field of graves, at the stones marking each one.

Somewhere out there, my stone is waiting for me.

“…and no one knows in what land he will die.” (Surah 31: 34)

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Post-Traumatic Sheikh Disorder | Part 2: Healing and Understanding

Teddy bear with a patch

Healing

As I mentioned in Part One, I turned to the internet for my answers. In my search for understanding, I came across a major problem: I didn’t know when to stop.  I hopped from website to website, following the breadcrumbs of the search results. I would think I had it beat, when suddenly I would read someone’s opinion on it, and the whole loop would start again.

I had opportunities to find closure on it. I was invited to a mosque where the imam and a sheikh were discussing the issue with a group of Muslim converts.

But I declined, partly because I felt I had reached my own conclusions, but mostly because I was afraid. As time progressed, I became frustrated with myself, that I wasn’t able to just shut the issue away and move on with my life.

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Post-Traumatic Sheikh Disorder | Part 1: Causes and Symptoms

Broken glass pane

The image of the sheikh standing up on stage, practically shouting to everyone “You better not have non-Muslim friends! You better not have non-Muslim friends!” became a screw my mind, twisting deeper every time I thought of it. Every time he stamped his foot, it drove a nail further into my heart.

That was the moment my long bout with Post-Traumatic Sheikh Disorder started.

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14. “Josh” (The Hajj Journal)

September 13, 2015

On my first day here I spotted another convert. He was pretty easy to spot, since his shorts and t-shirt and stubbly facial hair and white complexion were about similar to my own. Also, his backpack had the name “Joshua” written on it. And based on that alone, I assumed he was a new Muslim, perhaps sponsored to go for Hajj like some new Muslims are. Last night I actually got to talk with him. And for once I, in my khurta, felt like I as the one who became Arabized. He’s a really cool guy. He’s been Muslim almost as long as I—7 years—and is here with his wife and father-in-law. He’s planning on doing Umrah for himself first, then on behalf of his mother-in-law. His sister converted before him, and she lived in Edmonton (and I may actually have met her.) He was actually the mahram (male representative) for her wedding, and even though her parents were against [her] marriage, Josh did something amazing: he interviewed her suitor, spoke with his boss, co-workers, friends and others to get a feel for who he was. Then he took all this information and spread it out in front of his Dad. His Dad looked it over and said, “This is exactly what a father-in-law would want.” So he successfully convinced his Dad of the Islamic marriage process by actually doing the Islamic marriage process. [Josh] came to Islam by studying different religions, studying the Qur’an, and writing down questions. He took his questions to an Islamic conference and [spoke with] Zakir Naik. Josh said he spent months coming up with these questions, and Zakir Naik’s responses were just bullet-quick, in his usual style… [A] few months later, [Josh] accepted [Islam]. Pretty much everything I mentioned above has humbled me.

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13. “Small gestures” (The Hajj Journal)

On the rooft of Masjid An-Nabawi

September 13, 2015

When I went to maghrib prayer I decided to go up and pray on the roof. I was running a bit behind for [congregational prayer], and didn’t want to go through the crowd inside—and the courtyard was blocked in certain areas—so I decided to go up, knowing fewer people would be there. On the way up, I passed by a brother who said salams. Then he gestured that he needed help. He had his sandles in one hand and was trying to open the plastic bag they give you to put your footwear in, while also holding a tablet. He had a friendly, thankful smile. I tried to open the bag, but it was a dud (I got a few myself, [where] the plastic just does not open). I took the plastic bag I had on my sandles and gave it to him. He looked so thankful. We walked out on the roof together. He pointed at his tablet and mimicked taking a picture. [He gave me his tablet] and I pulled [it] out [of its case] and took a few pictures of him on the roof. Then he pointed at me, then him, then towards one of the custodians. I quickly knew that he wanted to take a picture with me. We gave the tablet to a custodian and got our picture taken together. We repeated the same process with my camera. We didn’t speak. The only full conversation we had was this:

Me: “Canada.”

Him: “Egypt. JazakAllah khair. (May God reward you)”

Me: “Waiekum. (And you as well)”

And then we parted with a smile.

The city is full of these small gestures. Whether it’s a simple “salam alaikum”, sharing your prayer rug with the brother beside you, giving an orange to a poor child, or buying a brother you just met some tea.

And we are told, “Any good you do, God is fully aware thereof.”

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